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Eagles in NFL playoffs? Chances slim, but possible

The Eagles crashed and burned in Week 9 against the Chicago Bears. At 3-5, their playoff chances have all but evaporated. If a miracle were to occur, here’s what it’d take the preseason Superbowl favorites to even reach the postseason.

We’ll attack the Eagles’ playoff chances on both fronts; the NFC Wildcard and the NFC East division title. At this point, both are long shots for the Eagles, especially the Wildcard. Nonetheless, I needed to know exactly how bleak the Eagles’ situation was for two reasons. 1. I need to know exactly what I’m praying for. 2. Because I’m a sucker and never give up on my teams, even when it’s clear they’re worth giving up on.

Let’s start with the NFC Wildcard. Currently, the Lions, Bears, Falcons, Cowboys and Buccaneers stand ahead of the Eagles, in that order. As you can see, I’ve left off the division leaders in each division for simplicity. For now, we’ll assume the Packers, 49ers, Saints, and Giants hold on to their division leads. Let’s quickly run through the Wildcard contenders and their remaining schedules.

Detroit Lions. Currently 6-2. Schedule: @Bears, Panthers, Packers, @Saints, Vikings, @Raiders, Chargers, @Packers.

As I noted a couple of weeks ago, I don’t expect the Lions to finish above 10-6. I was even leaning toward 9-7 at that time. Although the Raiders and Chargers have struggled of late, it’s still hard to imagine the Lions finishing better than 4-4 over their final eight games. I think they lose to both Chicago and New Orleans on the road. They’ll certainly drop at least one game to the Packers, if not both. That’s three losses right there. Detroit would then need to finish 4-0 or 3-1 against the Panthers, Vikings, Raiders and Chargers. That’s tough sledding. The Panthers are a handful, the Chargers will probably surge late as is their M.O., it’s never easy to win in Oakland, and the Vikings (a division rival) have played well since Christian Ponder took over. So yeah, 9-7 isn’t as crazy as it sounds.

Chicago Bears. Currently 5-3. Schedule: Lions, Chargers, @Raiders, Chiefs, @Broncos, Seahawks, @Packers, @Vikings.

Not good for Eagle fans. A loss in Lambeau is a safe bet. Aside from that, there are only three games that present a 50-50 chance at a loss; Lions, @Raiders, and Chargers. Given their schedule, it’s hard to imagine the Bears finishing worse than 6-2. Chicago’s win over Philly on Monday was monumental because of its tiebreaking implications. The Eagles must now finish a full game ahead of both the Bears and Falcons to get a Wildcard. As you can see, the Eagles aren’t leapfrogging the Bears, and the Bears certainly aren’t catching the Packers to win the NFC North. Thus, Chicago will get a Wildcard spot.

Atlanta Falcons. Currently 5-3. Schedule: Saints, Titans, Vikings, @Texans, @Panthers, Jaguars, @Saints, Buccaneers.

Hear that? It’s all of Eagle nation deflating at the same time. Could Atlanta lose three or even four of their final eight? Sure. The Texans are tough at home, the Panthers are feisty, the Bucs could play spoiler in Week 17, and the Saints are hit or miss from week to week. Still, 4-4 or even 5-3 for the Falcons seems like a stretch. 6-2 is most likely. And once again, the Eagles need to finish ahead of Atlanta. To briefly recap, the Eagles’ only hope for a Wildcard spot, and a slim one at that, is to run the table, finish 11-5, and hope the Lions, Bears, and Falcons falter.

Dallas Cowboys. Currently 4-4. Schedule: Bills, @Redskins, Dolphins, @Cardinals, Giants, @Buccaneers, Eagles, @Giants.
With the exception of their loss to Detroit, Dallas doesn’t have the tie breaking deficiencies the Eagles have (at least not yet), so 10-6 puts them in contention. But really, does anyone believe Dallas can finish 6-2? Tony Romo is due for at least one more 4th quarter collapse, and aside from Jason Witten, Romo’s receivers are either injured or too inconsistent to make a significant impact in the season’s second half.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Currently 4-4. Schedule: Texans, @Packers, @Titans, Panthers, @Jaguars, Cowboys, @Panthers, @Falcons.
I’ve been a staunch critic of the Bucs all season. An 8-8 finish smells about right.

Obviously, anything can happen in the NFL. Injuries, fluke losses, distractions; we’ve seen it all before, so the Eagles still have a glimmer of hope in winning a Wildcard spot. But let’s be honest, the Eagles’ chances of getting into the playoffs via the Wildcard are equivalent to Penn State’s alumni donations increasing.

Now here’s where it gets interesting. While the Wildcard may be a pipe dream, the NFC East title is still reasonably attainable. (Just a reminder: This is all based upon the extremely unlikely scenario the Eagles get their heads out of their rear ends and play up to their potential. I’m not assuming that will happen, so please refrain from sending me emails like, “Yeh, but the Eagles suck.” I’m aware. Thanks.)

At 3-5, the Eagles trail the 6-2 Giants by multiple games. However, unlike with the Bears and Falcons, the Eagles may only need to finish tied with the Giants to win the NFC East. Allow me to explain.

Let’s say the Eagles miraculously finish 7-1 to land at 10-6. If that one loss doesn’t come against the Cowboys, Giants, or Redskins (piece of cake, right?), the Eagles would guarantee themselves the NFC East title in any tiebreaker situation due to their 5-1 division record. I know what you’re thinking. How do the Giants finish 4-4 to end up at 10-6?

While it’s not promising, it is possible, thanks to the difficulty of the Giants’ schedule. Take a look: @49ers, Eagles, @Saints, Packers, @Cowboys, Redskins, @Jets, Cowboys. We’ll credit the Giants with victories over the Redskins and one over the Cowboys. The other six contests are completely up for grabs. A 2-4 record in those games is not crazy, especially considering the Giants’ propensity to struggle down the stretch.

As I stated several times before, the Eagles would need to do a complete 180 for any of this to matter, and there are certainly a hundred other scenarios that could eliminate the Eagles from playoff contention before Thanksgiving. Regardless, luck favors the prepared. If the Eagles do the unthinkable, I’ll be ready, knowing exactly what must happen for Andy Reid and my beloved Birds to reach the playoffs. Besides, I can’t accept the season is over. Not yet at least.

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